For a long time Olivia had known with certainty that she was the most important person in Peter's life.
But from the moment she saw him hold their daughter for the first time, she knew that had changed.
He'd taken one look at the bottomless blue eyes, the adorable chubby cheeks hued with a rosy tint, the wisps of golden hair, the perfection of her little arms and legs.
And just like that she knew she had been replaced.
It didn't bother her in the slightest. How could it when she felt the same way herself.
In those eyes that sparkled with mischief and innocence, bluer than the Cornish sea on a summer day lay a force field more potent than anything she had encountered.
It drew him in like a vortex, and he was powerless to resist its pull as was she.
She saw a man completely and utterly in love with his child, who would walk to the ends of earth and back for her, if she asked him to even in jest.
And with each day that passed, she saw him become ever so more enamored with her, with her smile and her laugh, her baby soft skin, the sound of her voice.
Her very existence was enough to make his lips turn in a grin.
The consummate daddy's little girl, their daughter had exploited her place in his heart to the hilt, making him yield to her every whim and fancy with but a wiggle of her little finger.
And he was so far wrapped around said finger that she should have worried that he had lost all sense of his self, except she found it much too endearing.
She barely came up to their height, and yet she could bring him down to his knees with but a look, a pout of her lips, a sideways grin, an all too familiar smirk.
And god forbid she began to cry for any which reason, like children were prone to doing at times, she was hard pressed to not remind him.
A single tear that stained her cherubic cheek was enough to wreck him and the next instant he would be groveling no end to a god he didn't even believe in to make it all better.
In happier times, she'd teased him regarding the nature of comeuppance, reminding him that it was only natural that someone who had spent so long surviving on the strength of his charms would one day find themselves a hopeless slave to the admittedly charismatic persuasions of another.
He'd laughed and told her this was one position of disadvantage he would willingly suffer till the end of time.
She can't even remember anymore what his laughter sounded like.
Because that particular sound seems as lost to her as their daughter was.
Like the different people they were, they loved differently… they always had.
Her affection like currents had always run deep and still, not all that visible at the surface but powerful enough to move oceans.
His love manifested in waves, explicit, strong and volatile, the kind that enveloped you with its unstoppable force and washed over you.
And in that pull and push…they had loved their child differently but equally.
And then grieved her loss differently but equally.
For the first time in all the years she knew him, she saw him unravel, saw him lose his sense of gravity, saw him become haunted.
Saw him nearly lose his mind with guilt and desperation.
And as much as she wanted to help, as much as she wanted to be the one to give him some grounding again, she couldn't.
Not when she was so inconsolable herself, lost in her own sorrow to be able to provide him any respite from his.
A selfish part of her needed him to be okay, to be able to pick up the pieces and put her back together.
To give her the support she had never been good at asking for and he had been good at offering without needing to be asked.
But he wasn't okay, far from it. He was spiraling and she couldn't pull him back from the deep end he was wandering dangerously towards. Couldn't tether him to what little was left of their family, of their life, of each other.
And every failed attempt, every dead end, every promising lead that never panned out in the search for their little girl took him farther and farther away from her.
Like a rudderless boat at sea, they had lost sight of their magnetic north and they simply drifted apart aimlessly in the abyss.
She'd seen the million times hope rose and died in his eyes every time he caught sight of a little blond head in the crowds and ran after futilely, calling out their daughter's name.
Seen the frantic ways in which he kicked at every door he could think off, called in every favor he had garnered, pleaded, coaxed, bargained, threatened.
Grasping at straws like clawing at hard and unyielding earth, digging for what he had lost, till his fingers bled out.
And the ways in which it splintered his soul and fractured his spirit and broke him little by little, taking away everything she had loved so much about him.
And through it all, she watched day in and out and as they strived to find her, unable to reach out and help him, heal him, terrorized as she was by her own demons, confronted with the agonizing knowledge that the odds were against them.
Everything her job had prepared her for now only served to tyrannize her, the statistics about missing children, the sickening and horrible possibilities of what could have happened to her daughter.
The chances of getting her back.
It didn't help how starved for resources they had become in those few weeks. Their line of work, their vast experience in dealing with everything in the range of possible and impossible…everything rendered meaningless when their badges which once carried an overriding authority could no longer open doors for them, give them access to information, to clues…
In a split second, the world had turned against them, they went from being soldiers to renegades, their allies dwindled as their enemies grew exponentially.
It was not that she was stronger than him, she really wasn't, not when this was concerned.
Her veneer was just slightly thicker than his, hardened by more experience of loss than him than any superhuman ability to withstand it as such.
So she diverted her weakened energies to straightening the burgeoning chaos around them, found something that maybe she could fix, thinking naively that if she saved the world, then she would no doubt save him too.
After all history was proof that there was a higher than normal correlation between those two happenings.
In vain she tried to dissuade him from his self-destructive quest even if just temporarily, to convince him to come with her, so that they could do this, like they had done everything else in life…together.
Instill him in a sense of meaning just so that she could keep him from falling apart anymore.
But for once, she couldn't reach through to him. He was already long gone, removed from the realities around them, consumed by that need which was burning him up from the inside.
Irrationally and unfairly, she had wanted him to, wanted him to be her rock again, to be that devil may care man she had come to love who could brave a hurricane and come out of it unperturbed, with a smile on his face and quip on his tongue.
But she knew better than anyone how incapable he was of giving her what she needed; clinging stubbornly as he was to the only vestiges of hope he had left.
Her frustrations conflicted with his own, causing a friction that was chafing at their already bruised and battered defenses, drawing blood from their scathed and wounded cores. And then leaving them to bleed some more.
In that moment, in a wordless exchange, she saw the inevitable truth in his eyes just as he saw it in hers.
He had chosen her every single time in the past, over a rightful place in his own universe, over a better version of herself, over a future in which she would die at the hands of his father, over his own existence.
But he wouldn't choose her over their daughter.
She couldn't ask him to…It wasn't a choice any person should be forced to make.
And as she had walked towards Grand Central, made her way through Manhattan's infamous crowds now a lot thinner and more subdued since the takeover, feeling truly alone for the first time in years, she couldn't help thinking that she'd lost him forever. That she would never see him again.
She knew of course that they weren't done because how they could be. Stories like theirs never really ended.
There was just not anything left right then, in that moment.
If death were to have come to her then, she would have welcomed it with open arms, confident in the knowledge that he wouldn't give up looking, that one day he would find their child and keep her safe, protect her and make sure no harm came to her, be the exceptional father that he had always been.
She remembers the way he had looked at her that day, as he'd held their baby, all of two minutes after she had arrived in this world kicking and screaming and making her presence felt. Of course she had calmed down the second she was deposited into his arms.
He had bent down to meet her gaze, his expression caught between laughing and crying, wonderstruck and dazed, as he pressed fervent half-formed kisses on her lips.
Thank you… he had whispered in a choked voice over and over, his tone embodying immeasurable gratitude.
No…thank you. She should have said to him, she thought as she triggered the amber device.